[Ops, Empok Nor]
[Two weeks later]
The establishment of a routine had become the primary concern for everyone occupying Empok Nor, Legate Aren being no exception. The lack of visitors to the station, as would normally be the case for a Nor, meant that the station took on the feel of a deep space mission that didn’t actually go anywhere. Monotony and boredom were rampant aboard, thanks in no small part to most of the spaces being empty and unutilized for any manner of diversion on the Promenade. Even going to the bar felt more a chore than a diversion, since it was only stocked with what was available in the Union, a selection that was sparse to say the least.
Legate Aren was, as was now part of her routine, parsing through the various section reports that had been submitted to her the evening before. It was painfully obvious that even the department heads on the station had fallen into the rut of routine. Most of them were now carbon copies of the previous day’s report with no effort expended to even modify the wording of them. The humor of this descent into tedium was not lost on the Legate, the tiny smirk dancing on her lips was proof enough of that.
The Legate let out a small sigh as she sank back into the rather comfortable chair that sat behind her desk. Even though she knew the reason behind the station being where it was, and the reason it was being kept a secret, that didn’t stop her from wondering if the council would actually be able to pull off the ‘grand plan’ and incite their intended participants from going through with the scheme they’d concocted. Aren had been part of the Cardassian military long enough to have gotten used to being told to deploy somewhere, only to later be told to change course, or return to her original mission as if the detour were simply an illusion. Thanks to discipline, she never asked her superiors for answers as to the changes. She did not, however, stop herself from contemplating the rationale behind them when she was alone.
The door to her office slid open, allowing Dalin Nefet to enter. The action wasn’t out of sorts, it didn’t fall outside of the etiquette demanded of a subordinate on a posting such as a station. What did strike the Legate as odd was the fact that the Dalin looked slightly in a panic. Unless the station was suddenly falling apart, the cause for her sudden visit must have been external in nature.
“What is it, Dalin?” Aren asked, turning her chair to face the woman more directly.
“There’s an incoming transmission from the Chairman, but it is marked as a station wide broadcast…” Nefet explained the situation that had brought her into the Legate’s office in such a panicky state.
“Is there now?” Aren couldn’t help but smirk at the news. Though she hadn’t expected it to be so soon, the Legate was almost certain that when the success or failure of the council’s scheme came to light, it would be handed down to them in such a broad sweeping fashion. Chairman Rekal struck Aren as the type to be extremely heavy handed when it came to spreading her vision of how she wished for things to go. A station wide broadcast was not in any real way a surprise.
The Legate swivelled a bit more and pushed herself out of her chair, circling around the desk to follow Nefet out into the ‘pit’ to view the broadcast with the rest of the Operations staff. A curt nod to the man at the communications console was all it took for him to bring the message up on all of the screens throughout the station.
“This is Chairman Rekal, broadcasting a message to the crew of Empok Nor. Negotiations with the Federation have proven to be successful. Our intentions for peaceful contact and cultural exchange have been met favorably by the Federation representatives we have spoken to. In the coming weeks, vessels of Federation origin will be sent to Empok Nor. This will be a monumental occasion, and the Council hopes that it will be a fruitful exchange that will bring about a great influx of goods and opportunities for the Cardassian people. This is the reason you have all been assigned to Empok Nor, because we believe you are capable of handling this unprecedented responsibility with the dedication it will require from you all. I look forward to your success. Cardassia out.”
The majority of the Operations center began exchanging glances, which soon erupted into a din of banter among them. Most of the chatter consisted of disbelief and surprise, though there were a few murmurs of discontent laced in the conversations. The only person in the room not engaging in any manner of shocked expression was Legate Aren. Her quiet smile grew more noticeable as the din of chatter continued on, until Dalin Nefet actually came to her senses and realized the Legate was far too composed given the weight of the transmission’s contents.
“Pardon me for asking this, Legate… but did you know this was going to happen?” Nefet inquired in a voice just loud enough to cut through and silence the din of conversation around her.
“Of course I did,” Aren admitted freely, “I would have thought such a thing would have been obvious. I’m almost disappointed you even had to ask…”
Nefet shifted uncomfortably at the response, slightly embarrassed by the jab made at her observational skills. Whether the Legate noticed her discomfort or not would be a question left unanswered as she suddenly shifted the conversation and attention away from that toward what was expected of them now.
“As you’ve just heard, the Council has made inroads to the Federation. They will be coming here in short order to establish a cultural exchange between our two peoples. I expect that with their presence will come a great deal of trouble to contend with. My own personal experiences with Federation personnel is severely limited. I’ve only engaged with them a handful of times… Some of you likely have never dealt with anyone not of Cardassian origin in your lives. Your inexperience may yet prove useful, since you have no preconceived expectations for how to interact with them. But interact you shall… all of you are expected to expose yourself to our guests. Whether you become the best of friends is of little consequence, as long as no one here presents an overly antagonistic facade toward them,” Aren explained, her gaze landing on each of the people standing around her to drive the point across that she meant it for not only them, but everyone they supervised as well.
“Will they be running the station alongside us?” the Dalin in charge of station maintenance spoke up.
“No,” the Legate said before pausing to give the matter a bit more consideration before amending, “Not at first at least. Should they prove useful, or express a desire to become useful in those endeavors, we will address it then. For now, however, they will not be permitted into any areas that a Cardassian civilian would be restricted from entering.”
The man’s face appeared pensive over the answer to his query but he nonetheless nodded and accepted it as it stood.
“Do we know how many ships we should expect?” The Glinn in charge of overseeing their docking facilities and storage areas spoke up.
“Not at the moment. The information I had already been given by the Council before my arrival was focused mainly on the expectations of the project, not the particulars. I’m sure that the first wave of Federation vessels will be able to tell us more about their contingent when they arrive. I recommend you set your expectations for what they might bring high. We can always draw down later, but I do not want to be caught being lax and have to rush to catch up,” Aren remarked.
Another nod, but this time with a much less displeased look from the person she’d addressed.
Nefet folded her arms across her chest with a frown, “How are we going to segregate the Federation contingent? Quarters were assigned in the typical fashion for a military post, which means we would have to fit their people among our own.”
“I see nothing wrong with that,” the Legate said without giving the question any thought, “Having Federation neighbors in an adjacent room won’t hamper operations of this station in any way. If anything, leaving things as they are right now will only serve to show the Federation our sincerity in engaging in this cultural exchange. Having sections blocked off and only accessible for Federation habitation will only present us as being half-hearted about this whole affair.”
Unlike the previous responses, this latest decree was met with vocal displeasure from most of the people gathered in Ops. The fact that they were so adamant about their objections to such a plan showed the Legate just how difficult a task they had ahead of them. With a mental sigh, Aren waited for everyone to have their little turn at voicing why the idea was a bad one before she addressed the matter again.
“Does everyone feel better now that they’ve had their say?” the Legate cast her gaze over the assembled crew, watching their faces and gestures for a moment before continuing, “Good. Now that I’ve indulged your ridiculous outburst, I shall repeat what I said. No changes to how quarters have been distributed will be made. No requests for transfers to other quarters will be entertained. We will not change the way we have gone about business up until now to please anyone… on either side. We will treat this influx of personnel as we would treat any influx that came from Cardassia. There will be no preferential treatment of any kind for any reason when it comes to issues such as accommodations or the like.”
“Even for you?” the Glinn in charge of security spoke up suddenly.
Legate Aren smiled at the man, “Especially for me. I rather like my quarters as it stands, and having a Federation neighbor will not lower the quality of my accommodations in the least. In fact, I expect that the person being placed in charge of the Federation contingent will be placed in one of the empty suites near my own.”
The collected officers didn’t expect to hear such a thing from the Legate. If anything, their expectations had been that she would try to use her position to exempt herself from such considerations but expect that the rest of them suffer the brunt of such a decision. Their objections to her decree lost a great deal of steam when she announced that she not only wasn’t going to be exempt, but expected that the Federation representative would be housed nearby.
“If we are going to be involved in such a project, everyone must be willing to do so with the utmost faith and dedication to it. If the end goal is to ensure that we gain the economic and political favors that will help our people survive in this new age, then we must do so without reservation or hesitation. It is the results that will be scrutinized by the Council… as well as historians… not the means by which we secured those results,” Aren explained to the group with a rather proud look on her face.
The collective members of the staff around her couldn’t help but agree with her stance, even if they weren’t entirely sold on the idea being put forward. Survival had always been paramount in the minds of Cardassians, and sacrificing something in the short term to gain something monumental in the long run was nothing short of expected in Cardassian culture. Emotional appeals were hardly an effective method when attempting to change the minds of a group with such morality at their core, but a logical appeal to their sense of duty to the continuation of their race had the required impact to quell dissent… at least for the moment.
“Now, if there are no other complaints about our mission,” the Legate’s face turned serious as she swept her gaze around once more to get the point across that the time for complaints was well and truly over, “Make ready to receive our guests. Any arrangements that need to be made prior to their arrival must come through me. And don’t forget… no changes in living quarters. Make sure everyone is brought up to speed before week’s end. I would hate to have to make Glinn Talmet throw a few dozen people into the brig because they didn’t get the message.”
The assembled staff nodded at the orders and broke away from the central console to carry out the required preparations. Aren smirked at the efficiency of the crew and their ability to take action even when they weren’t overly enthusiastic about it. As the thought crossed her mind, Aren wondered if there had ever actually been a time she herself had been all that enthusiastic to carry out orders she wasn’t thrilled about. As she mused about it, Legate Aren made her way back to her office to make preparations of her own.